Major League Soccer
US Soccer

Walton sets sights on further improvement

Dec 11, 2013

PRO General Manger Peter Walton believes the MLS Cup 2013 lived up to expectations and has praised the assigned PRO match officials.

Sporting Kansas City outscored Real Salt Lake 7-6 in the longest penalty shootout in MLS playoff history to lift the Cup, after the teams drew 1-1 over 120 minutes of action.

It was a thrilling match at Sporting Park and Walton felt referee Hilario Grajeda, ARs Bill Dittmar and Paul Scott, 4th official Ismail Elfath and alternative assistant Baboucarr Jallow, represented the Organization well.

Walton told “On the domestic scene, the MLS Cup is the biggest game in North American soccer, and this season I think the Cup stood up to the pedestal that it’s put on.

“Our officials who were assigned to the match made everybody in the Professional Referee Organization proud, with the game management that they adopted. Their performance reflects well on us all. 

“The two teams that competed were probably the teams who deserved to be there through their record, and our team of officials were the team who deserved to be there because of their performances during the season.”

The exciting MLS Cup marked the end of the first full season of the Professional Referee Organization and Walton admitted the inaugural year had flown by.

Reflecting on what he knew was going to be a difficult campaign, the General Manager insisted things are moving in the right direction for PRO and the officials of North American soccer.

And he was quick to turn his attention to next year, when further improvement will be the target.

“When I look back to the game I attended in March in a very hot Houston – the first game – it only seems a matter of days from that moment, to the MLS Cup in a very cold Kansas City.

“While we can sit and bask in the success of the Cup for a day or two, we have to progress next season. We cannot afford to think that because we’ve had a reasonably successful year in terms of our development and exposure, accumulating in a terrific Cup final, that’s it. 

“The objective was to always fit in with our mission statement and vision - to be in the world leaders of officials by 2022. That’s always been our mandate and that’s what we’ll continue to work towards. 

“In terms of specifics, the past year was always going to be difficult for us all, because it was the inaugural year - the first year of truly professional referees. 

“That's with regards to their discipline for training, the number of matches to which they were assigned, the travel arrangements, and their family life.

“An aim of mine was to look at the perception of the officials from outside of our own group of people. It was important to see that the view in the media and in the public’s eye was beginning to change in our favor.

“I don’t have the data yet to prove that, but what I do have is the gut feeling that when I talk to fans, to coaches, and to other people connected to soccer, they have noticed the change for the better in the referees and assistant referees that are officiating our games.

“The more we improve, the more our stakeholders want us to improve; that’s got to be the target for next year."

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